Going Text-less on Power Point

As a professor of Latin American literature and culture, the use of audio-visual material has been a very effective tool in my classes. So far, I have preferred a low-tech approach to teaching, occasionally playing a short scene from a movie or a documentary, a music video, or a TV ad.  Although I am also a Power Point user, I have never been an advocate of using it to present information. Text on a screen becomes tedious, it slows down class discussion, and it suddenly puts our students in a robotic, note writing mode. To me, Power Point is fundamentally a pedagogic tool to introduce different types of visuals into the class, shifting the dynamic of the class discussion, and reinforcing the full attention of my students.

I rarely use text on the screen; I also discourage my students to do so in their oral presentations. The use of Power Point in the classroom should be about a few stimulating images, not about a class-long presentation full of definitions, explanations, dates, and written excerpts from the book. In a text-less Power Point presentation, students are the ones who define, explain, analyze, and inform while the images change on the screen. They should illustrate what they are saying, whether it is an event, a theme, a conflict, a reference to pop culture or to historical places, even the emotional or mental state of a character. The images should complement and enhance the information given; they should work as “hyperlink” windows or visual footnotes. The use of text could be used in certain cases, but it should be kept to a minimum. For instance, sometimes a photo without context can provoke an interpretation that changes completely once you add a date or a tittle. Thus an image of a building in flames that looked like one of the twin towers could become the Chilean presidential palace during the US-backed coup on September 11, 1973.


One can also measure reading comprehension in the type of visuals used by the student to illustrate the plot in a story. A student might decide to represent a character with the photo of a white Hollywood actor in his late twenties when the novel describes him as a poor Dominican in his puberty. On the other hand, another student could used the image of an obese young woman to demonstrate, not how dangerously skinny the character actually is, but the body image she has of herself according to the text.

UnknownI have also found very helpful the use of a visual image completely devoid of any context at the beginning of the class, inviting students to imagine, interpret, and articulate what they see. The iconic face of Che Guevara on a dollar bill, an upside down map of the world, a photo of a mouth with lips made out of real ruby stones and real pearls instead of teeth, or a painting of two lovers facing each other with mirrors in place of their faces are a few examples that have provoked productive and lively discussion in my classes.


About Luis Maldonado

AA-Dedman(Foreign Languages)
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4 Responses to Going Text-less on Power Point

  1. Meghan Ryan says:

    I am definitely with you, Luis, on textless PowerPoints. I have found it helpful for the visual learners in my classroom to be able to pair an image with their assigned readings; it helps them remembers the details of the reading better. I’ve also found PowerPoint useful for displaying charts to help explain doctrine to my students. Where I’ve run into trouble with PowerPoint, though, is when I want to have my students help me create charts. I’m not sure that PowerPoint has the flexibility to do this. Good old-fashioned white boards seem to be more useful for this more collaborative task. If anyone has a better way, or a better tool, for these types of student-professor interactions, I’d love to hear about it!

  2. Sheri Kunovich says:

    I think this is a really interesting perspective on how to use Power Point in the classroom. I am actually a heavy user of text based presentations in Power Point. I use it so heavily in fact that I often give students the slides and encourage them to use the NOTE function in the bottom of the slides to take additional notes from class that day or from their own readings. I find that Power Point slides can be a great way for them to organize their own notes. After reading your blog however I definitely want to try a visual based presentation that uses images instead of words. It will be fascinating to see if it shakes up our class discussions! Thanks for the post and ideas!

  3. Lorraine Mecca says:

    Although I am somewhat computer savvy, I have not stood in front of a classroom for many years. I found your analysis of images vs text intriguing. I dislike presentations where the presenter reads projected information to me, but did not realize how text inhibits thought and discussion. Thanks for the insight.

  4. Barbara Whitehead says:

    The images inserted in your post are great examples of your point! Very powerful. Thanks for the tip.

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